This isn’t exactly your typical ‘share a sweet anecdote over a glass of wine’ type story.
But it is quite the story and has come to be one of my favourites.
In my early 20’s, I was living in a one-bedroom flat in East London with my then boyfriend. I was paying the bills and getting by but I didn’t exactly have much in the way of disposable income.
My sister and I had a monthly cinema pass so whenever we were bored and out of dollar, we’d have what we called a ‘cinema day’. We’d squeeze in as many films as we could back-to-back, with a selection of snacks to see us through the day.
Hey, sometimes you have to make your own fun.
The boyfriend was in recruitment and spent a lot of time going out boozing with his colleagues until the early hours — and when I say that, I mean 7 am. He’d then lay in bed for the majority of the weekend whilst I either hit my sister up for one of our cinema days, or headed for a walk to the park nearby.
My options were pretty limited and soon the days began to roll into one.
As a Pisces, I’m a constant dreamer, so I began thinking up a different life in which we could get paid but whilst doing something fun. And that’s when I came up with the idea of working a season abroad.
I spotted a job advert for ‘Sports Entertainers’ at a 5-star holiday resort in Mainland Greece — we applied, had a video-interview, and got accepted.
What could possibly go wrong?
Aside from the fact that I wasn’t particularly good at sports, the job seemed like a no-brainer.
Me and the boyfriend shared a one-bedroom apartment in a village nearby where all the staff members lived. It was simple, but we had a view of the sea and a corner shop within walking distance.
We’d work 6 days a week — yes a little intensive, but we were out in the Greek sunshine and interacting with people from all walks of life — and from all over the world. The days were enjoyable and we even got to eat in the hotel restaurant for breakfast and dinner.
At the resort, there was a marina with a couple of cafes and a bar which had a weekly salsa night. Again, I was no dancer, but I believed I was each week rocking my hips out and at one point leading everyone in the classic ‘YMCA’.
I made some really great friendships and, generally, it was a whole bunch of fun.
So, what was the catch?
Somewhere along the line, and I can’t exactly pinpoint where, I started to see my boyfriend in a completely different light.
We’d been together for over four years, and I’d had niggling doubts every now and then, but all of a sudden those doubts became a lot more intense.
I didn’t like the way he spoke to me or behaved around other people, and it became increasingly obvious that he was feeling incredibly jealous over my friendship with a gay male dancer.
At one point, when we were alone in our apartment, I watched the anger fill up inside of him like I was watching a ticking bomb. He was stood up shaking and his hands formed into tight fists at his sides.
I hadn’t done anything and I was sat on the bed.
Now nothing happened and I don’t think it would have, but that was enough for me to know that this situation wasn’t good for me and I needed out.
I’m not saying as I was an angel by any means — it must have been difficult to watch a person change overnight. I had always been quite timid in terms of my relationship. I didn’t stand my ground, but that’s how I’d always been.
It was a comment about my sleeping in the same bed as a my gay friend that tipped me over the edge and finally gave me a voice.
To put this into context: a male friend of my boyfriend’s was coming to stay for a week and so I suggested that I stay with my friend (in his bed) so that said boyfriend’s friend could sleep in our bed in my place. Mr boyfriend thanked me so much and said that would be great.
Cue a few days later when he told everyone that I was sleeping in the same bed as another guy and made out that he wasn’t happy with it and I’d done wrong…
It was as though someone had flipped a switch inside my head.
It took me a few weeks to work up to it and lots of awkward bus journeys to work where my boyfriend tried to hold my hand and I just felt icky inside. But eventually, I plucked up the courage and called it quits.
In Greece. A thousand miles away from home.
I remember calling my Dad from the beach and questioning what the hell I was going to do next. I’m sure he wanted me to just come home, but I wasn’t ready to do that.
I wasn’t in love with the person I came with anymore, but I was still in love with Greece and the friendships I had made.
I went to work and whilst there I picked up a yoga mat to bring back to the village with me. I’d never done yoga before but I liked the idea of it and thought it might give me something to do.
I still had no idea where I was going to live. I naively thought that I didn’t hate my ex-boyfriend so we could still live together. But that night, I couldn’t bring myself to get into the same bed.
I picked up the yoga mat and headed outside.
It was 2 am and not a soul was awake. I pitched up my mat on the hillside overlooking the sea and sat down. I had a million thoughts running through my head and I tried to calm them.
Which was going fairly well until a large dog trotted over in my direction.
It was only as it got closer that I realised it wasn’t like the dogs we have at home. It was snarling, and it looked angry.
I slowly stood up, picking up my yoga mat, and stepped backwards. But there was nowhere to hide. Before I knew it, the dog had launched for me and I held up the yoga mat in defence.
I let out a scream as my mat slowly started to disappear before my eyes as the dog ripped it to shreds.
By some miracle, somebody must have heard me and I saw a man emerge from his balcony nearby. He started shouting some Greek words over in our direction and the dog looked up. I continued to move backwards as some stones were thrown in the dog’s direction and it ran away.
I shouted thank you to the man, who I’m sure was extremely unimpressed, especially as I wasn’t speaking Greek, and headed back to the apartment.
Without my yoga mat.
Something inside me changed that night. It was like all of a sudden, when faced with a situation where I could have been mauled to death, I knew I wanted to tackle life head on.
I opened the door to my apartment and took a deep breath before matter of factually explaining to my ex that I had just been attacked by a dog and it had eaten my yoga mat.
I’m sure that made him pretty smug and the next day I overheard him and his little posse (who had been renamed the three musketeers) say that it was ‘karma’.
And yet really, the joke was on them. For the first time ever, I didn’t care and I found it quite funny.
My friends rallied round me and for the next couple of months we had an absolute blast. I definitely drank too much and danced until my feet hurt, but I felt happy and confident within myself.
I trusted myself again — and I trusted my own voice. I knew exactly what I wanted, and more importantly what I didn’t want.
That night, a yoga mat had saved my life (and the man on the balcony of course). But if I had never come to the Greek Holiday Resort, I would never have saved myself.